1980s Style, Trends Revisited: Early Hip Hop, MTV Superstars - Rolling Stone
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1980s Style, Trends Revisited: Early Hip Hop, MTV Crowns Madonna, Michael Jackson

50 Years of Music and Style: from Material Girls to urban icons

Madonna, Run DMC, Duran Duran, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Michael Jackson and . . . Pretty in Pink‘s Duckie? The Eighties were a much more potent, boundary-pushing era – in music, style and pop culture – than casual armchair historians often give it credit for, as we explore in the third episode of our six-episode documentary series connecting music and fashion.

“The bullshit putdown of Eighties music was that it was image over substance,” says Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Joe Levy of the maligned “Me” decade. “[That putdown] always felt like bullshit to me,” he says, pointing to Duran Duran’s serious musical chops.

In truth, the birth of MTV and scores of photogenic megastars of pop, rock, New Wave and more helped transmit morphing sounds and sights in a newly immediate, viral way. “All of the sudden, there’s no difference between being a music fan in New York and being a music fan in Billings, Montana,” says Levy.

And the mash-up, DIY street style that permeates the aesthetic of our current decade arguably also began in the Eighties – particularly in the burgeoning world of hip hop. “Think about how powerful Run DMC taking the laces out of their Adidas is,” Levy says. “The birth of sneaker culture. The birth of a style that’s gonna go around the country and around the world.”

Or look, again, at the iconic filmography of John Hughes – The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and beyond – for the proliferation of archetypical teen uniforms customized again and again, according to designer Jayne Min. 

See other episodes in the series below.

Watch 1960s Style, Trends Revisited: British Invasion, Hippies, Woodstock

Watch 1970s Style, Trends Revisited: Disco, Punk Rock, David Bowie

1990s Style, Trends Revisited: Grunge, Hip Hop Golden Era

2000s Style, Trends Revisited: Teen Pop, YouTube Stars, American Idol

2010s Style, Trends Revisited: Social Media Explodes, Stars Brand Themselves 360

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